SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - A "Stay Home and Eat Local for the Holidays" effort is underway this month in Santa Barbara County. The goal is to encourage healthy eating at a time when you may be seeing more homemade candy, cookies and holiday treats.
In this case you will use fresh, locally sourced food and a custom recipe guide. It's a healthy pivot during the limited stay-at-home order.
"We want to promote Farmers' markets for the holidays. It's outdoors, it's safe. Staying home, eating at home and shopping local," said Shakira Miracle Executive Director with the Santa Barbara County Food Action Network (SBCFAN).
This is a collaboration between area Farmers' Markets, SBCFAN, Santa Barbara County Public Health, Edible Santa Barbara magazine and the Apples to Zucchini Cooking School.
A special information table is set up at the all the Farmers' Markets. Information is printed in English and Spanish.
There are also row by row guides with directions to the growers and the items they are selling.
Miracle says the program connects the public with farmers in a more direct and creative way.
"We're explaining that if you buy in season, and local it is actually it is affordable, if not cheaper, than your local grocery store. It's safer and ultimately we are going to get through this together," she said.
The suggested recipes create a nutritious alternative during the holidays.
There are also lists of "in-season" crops.
Those on a limited income can also use their monthly funds through the EBT/Cal Fresh program. It comes with a bonus. When you spend $10. you get $20. worth of fresh, local food at the Farmer's market.
Each market has a location with staff to help you find a farmer, a food item, or a recipe.
"We get a map, you have a list of where to find those and what food they provide and from there, those incredible recipes," said Miracle.
Children have been encouraged to participate through the Apples to Zucchini program which teaches healthy eating and cooking classes.
At this month's markets there are also suggested ways to design gifts with market nuts and home made items such as granola presented in reusable jars wrapped with ribbons and bows.
Nancy Martz, Apples to Zucchini co-founder, picked up a container at the Saturday Farmers' market and said, "this is just a take out container, rather than throwing it away, wrap it up, this is colorful paper and a gift tag."
She also encourages creative ideas with the fresh food beyond the recipes they provide.
"The beauty of it is, you don't have to follow the recipe to a T. If you don't like dates, put in apricots, if you don't like walnuts, put in almonds. If you like all of them, put them all in and they are so delicious," said Martz.
For more information go to: Santa Barbara County Food Action Network